Summertime….

And the reading is easy!!

Title: For Dead Men Only by Paula Paul

4 Stars ****

Publisher: Alibi (Random House) April 2016 195 pp

Genre: historical mystery, cozy, series, Victorian 

Author: Paula Paul is an award winning journalist and author who has published over 25 novels. Her genres include historical fiction, literature and fiction, YA and mysteries.

I especially like her Dr Alexandra Gladstone mystery series (now on #5) 

Story line:

We return to Newton-Upon-the-Sea in the fifth book in the Alexandra Gladstone mystery series (Symptoms of Death, An Improper Death, Half a Mind to Murder, Medium Dead). I suggest reading them in order as there has been some character development; but minor story progression. It could be read as a stand alone. Constable Snow still doesn’t believe her and Alexandra is always left to figure out the murderer using her observational skills and logic. Alexandra inherited the practice of doctor to the people of Newton-upon-sea (Essex). She is a strong female character, determined and intelligent in the socially crippling Victorian backwater. It is useful to remember what women had to deal with, the current freedoms we take for granted (and still fight to keep). There is also some antagonism between classes, which also restricts her subtle love interest Lord Dunsford (Nicholas Forsyth). I especially like Nancy, her intelligent, caring assistant, friend and housekeeper, and her Irish wolfhound Zack, who often growls at Nick. This time, Freemasons are being murdered, the local constable disappears instead of investigating, a Templar ghost is mysteriously riding nightly, and poisons are involved.

As a cozy this is not a fast paced mystery, and while it is predictable, it has an intriguing plot line and developing characters that I have come to enjoy. The sense of place works well with interesting descriptions of English village life. This would be a fun summer read. It is available on Kindle unlimited if you want to catch up on the previous books.

Read on:

If you like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Marty Wingate or Anne Perry.

Also, Imogen Robertson series of Westerman and Crowther and Tessa Harris series of Dr Silkstone. 

For more complex historical mysteries read onto Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd and Laurie R King.

Quotes:

Fitzsimmons gasped when he saw that the apron that symbolized purity and cleanliness head been defiled with dried blood, yet there was no sign of a wound on Saul’s body.

Impertinence doesn’t become you.

By now she had gone beyond smelling the embalming chemicals and thought she could taste them.

When she arrived back home, the surgery’s waiting room was already full of impatient patients. She and Nancy hardly had time to speak as they attended to the needs of those wanting tonics for rheumatism or herbs for a cough, a farmer with a dislocated shoulder, as well as villagers with various complaints.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

 

It’s a new book…. If you haven’t read it!


Title: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain4.5 Stars ****

Publisher: Random House 384 pp (July 2015)

Genre: literary fiction, memoir fiction, novelized memoir, historical novel, Africa,

Author

Paula McLain is the author of several novels (including two poetry books), and the international best seller (2012) The Paris Wife. She has definitely found her niche writing gorgeous stories about interesting women. Her writing is richly evocative of time and place, the engaging characters are well developed, however famous, and they are well researched. Her books, best sellers and NYTimes listed, have won notable awards and nominations; NPR named Circling the Sun one of the best books of 2015. Film rights have been optioned!

Story line:

Much of the story takes place in Kenya, Africa during the 1920s and 1930s. This is a short chapter in the life of Beryl Markham, ending with her transatlantic flight in 1936 (she lived another 50). Her life is full of bad choices and tragedy, but also held together by an indomitable spirit. Her love of Africa was a driving force, while social conventions were mostly to be ignored. So although this is white colonial Africa, she appears to be a much more modern, complicated woman. I thought her unruly girlhood (wild Masai tribe) was a rather romanticized, but the social frustration with conventional expectations were truly appalling. I keep thinking how far we’ve come, and then wondering if we really have. She was an extraordinary woman, adventurer and aviator. Her story deserves to be more widely known. She was the first and youngest woman to be a licensed horse trainer and the first woman to fly solo transatlantic (east to west), 1936).

While Beryl is the main character, Africa is an immense, constant presence, beautifully detailed and enjoyed by the reader. I also love her realistic descriptions of flying, which also show the love affair with the African landscape. This would be a perfect summer read.

Read on:

Beryl Markham West with the Night (1942)

Isak Dinesen Out of Africa

Quotes:

Prologue 1936. The Vega Gull is peacock blue with silver wings, more splendid than any bird I’ve known, and somehow mine to fly.

First Line 1904. Before Kenya was Kenya, when it was millions of years old and yet somehow still new, the name belonged only to our most magnificent mountain.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library (and as Ebooks).
Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, issued in paperpback, just discovered or recently recommended. Don’t miss this author visit!!

Intrigue!

The winners of the Agatha Awards, which celebrate the “traditional mystery–books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie,” were honored recently at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Md. This year’s winners are:Contemporary Novel: Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron (Grand Central)

First Novel: On the Road with Del and Louise by Art Taylor (Henery Press)

Historical Novel: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King (Bantam)

Nonfiction: The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)

Children’s/YA: Andi Unstoppable by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)

Short Story: “A Year Without Santa Claus?” by Barb Goffman (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2015)


Title: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House 384 pp (April 2016)

Genre: mystery, Sherlock Holmes, adventure, series, crime, historical thriller 

5 Stars ****

Author: Laurie R King is a best selling author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, SanFran homicide inspector Kate Martinelli series, as well as stand alone suspense novels. She has been nominated for and won many awards for her writing, (including a Nero for A Monstrous Regiment of Women, (Russell/Sherlock) and a MacCavity for Touchstone, one of my favourite mysteries). Last week she was awarded an Agatha for best historical 2015 Dreaming Spies! The first Russell/Sherlock is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994). But don’t miss Beekeeping for Beginners (2011), a novella written from Sherlock’s perspective. King has also written a number of short stories, which are all worth collecting. She recently released The Marriage of Mary Russell, again, don’t miss it! She is co-editor with Leslie Klinger (master Sherlock authority!) of A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (3rd volume later this year!). She is a strong supporter of libraries and much of her recent book tour helped raise funds. There were also spectacular events (see fashion show on her website http://laurierking.com: enjoy her blog posts and facebook!)

Story line:

This is the 15th Mary Russell (aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes) mystery, narrated by Mary and this time with Mrs Hudson. Everyone has a backstory, and this is Mrs Hudson’s. Knowing Holmes and Russell, could you have expected less of Hudson? She was a beauty who overcame heartbreaking challenges, lived on the edge and risked everything. A completely new twist on her relationship with Holmes. 

They are very much historical novels, period pieces with intriguing mysteries. Mary is a strong female protagonist, intellectually formidable, equal with Holmes with a subtle personal relationship that I find tantalizing and perceptive. She remains one of my favourite bluestockings. Doyle should be impressed. Would that Cumberbatch gets interested.

It is an interesting puzzle, an intricate plot, a fascinating view of the 1860-1880s (as well as ‘current’ 1925), with intriguing layered characters and detailed backgrounds, all making for another very satisfying read. I’m going to reread the series in light of these revelations to see if I really missed the clues about Billy or Mrs Hudson. I can’t wait for the next adventure. Don’t miss King’s recent short story on the Marriage of Mary Russell either!

I will no doubt buy a hard copy, and continue to recommend her earlier novels. You can read this independent of the others but why? Start with the first: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and enjoy the character development and progression (and adventures!) They often follow directly on from the previous book.

Read on:

If you like Sherlock Holmes you will enjoy this series. Make note of the authors with membership in The Irregulars, or books sanctioned by the Conan Doyle Estate. Read the short stories by various authors in A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. Edited by Laurie Kind and Leslie Klinger 

Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

Caleb Carr The Italian Secretary

Alan Bradley Flavia DeLuce novels

Leslie Klinger The Annotated Sherlock Holmes 

Larry Millett Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon (for Sherlock in Minnesota)

Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Moriarity, and short story The Three Monarchs

Quotes:

I was married to Sherlock Holmes, had known him only a few hours longer than I had known Mrs Hudson, and the basic fact of life with Holmes was: the world is filled with enemies.

I see what you are up to, it said, but I love you anyway.

I stifled my arm’s automatic impulse to catch the outstretched hand and whirl him against the wall-

…my bereft heart had claimed Mrs Hudson for its own. I had known her for ten years now, lived with her for more than four, and she was as close to a mother as I would ever have again.

The embrace was as brief as it was emphatic, and left Billy open-mouthed as Holmes stepped away from me – one hand lingering on my shoulder. I felt a bit open-mouthed myself at this unprecedented public display.

Clara Hudson’s dark hair had gone mostly grey before she realised that childhood was not intended to be a continuous stream of catastrophe and turmoil. At the time, while she was living it, the constancy of hunger, discomfort, dirt and uncertainty with the occasional punctuation of death and fists, was simply the price of existence…
Read as an ARC from Netgalley

It’s a new book….

If you haven’t read it! 

Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, perhaps just discovered, perhaps recommended, perhaps on sale as an ebook, or a library find.

Title: Named of the Dragon, Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Berkley/Sourcebooks (Oct 1999, reissued 2013UK, ebook 2015) 337 pp
4.5 stars
Genre: historical romance, romantic suspense, gothic suspense, British
Disclaimer
I have read all her novels, have them as paperbacks and ebooks. I especially love her Scottish characters and stories which take me back home. I have given them to a wide variety of people, with no disappointments. I hope the popularity of this author makes people more aware of similar, earlier novelists:
Mother’s Day is coming up – this novel or any of her books would make a lovely gift. It would also make a lovely holiday reading present.
Author:
Susanna Kearsley is an award winning, NYTimes best selling Canadian author. She studied politics and international development at university and has been a museum curator. I recommend all her books: perhaps it is best to read them in order if you can find them! Mariana (1994), Spendour Falls (1995), Shadowy Horses (1997), Named of the Dragon (1998), Season of Storms (1999/2014), Winter Sea (also called Sophia’s Secret) (2008), Rose Garden (2011), Firebird (2013), A Desperate Fortune (2015). Her well researched historical novels often have paranormal elements, with a gentle love story. She has also written classic style thrillers as Emma Cole (Every Secret Thing, 2006). See her website http://www.susannakearsley.com for pictures of Pembroke Castle.
Story Line:
This is not contemporary romance.
This is not a fast paced mystery / thriller.
This is not necessarily a page turner, fast read.
This is not similar to her most recent paranormal historical books.
But it is a lovely, well written, atmospheric novel that will provide you with a strong sense of time and place: of Wales, King Arthur and literary London. Named of the Dragon is a gentle, layered, absorbing read. I loved the brief but accurate historical details. The gothic suspense is real and building. The voice of each character is pitch perfect. Her characters are often clever intelligent people, in the every day situations. I enjoyed the foray into the literary world, for the interesting portraits of authors, writers, genre, the hard work involved in writing and the intriguing personalities, politics and contemporary contrasts (although note there are no references to social media!). There is a nice balance of family, friends, Welsh vs English, each contributing clues to the slowly revealed story.
Lyn Ravenshaw is an eclectic literary agent for Simon Holland London, who accompanies one of her major clients, the flamboyant, self centered Bridget Cooper to the village of Angle, Wales for a Christmas holiday. Here be dragons, with castle, ruins, dovecote, myths, legends and coastal walks. Lyn’s haunting dreams add a surreal element of prophecy and an opportunity to explore Merlin, King Arthur, Tennyson and personal loss. Lyn is a young (29) widow who is still grieving her stillborn son, but finds new paths with a local family, a playwright, coastal walks with a lovely dog named Chance, and seasonal cheer. Kearsley’s romance is subtle and charming. Here it is a proper love story, not even a kiss but swoon worthy true love.
Read on:
If you like Mary Stewart (especially her Merlin trilogy), Mary Elgin, Barbara Michaels, Barbara Erskine, Anya Seton, Daphine du Maurier, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Harris.
To her later novels, read on to Diana Gabaldon
Alfred, LordTennyson Idylls of the King (Sir Gareth and Lynnette)
This novel reminded me of Mary Stewart, The Merlin Trilogy (4 books beginning with Crystal Cave). This is a wonderful thing as I sincerely miss her writing (and if it’s any indication by the number of individuals and book clubs to which I have recommended Kearsley, many still miss Stewart.
Quotes:
First line: The dream came, as it always did, just before dawn.
Bridget was a one-off, an exceptionally talented writer with a wild imagination that made her books for children instant classics, and a wild nature that drove poor directors of my literary agency to drink….. And I, who had survived 4 years and one weeks holiday in France with Bridget, had risen to status of martyr.
…a toss of the coin did seem the only fair way to decide where I ought to spend Christmas…it only took four tries to make the penny come up tails.
I recognized the stubborn tone, the stamp of a true writer. And I took his side wholeheartedly. Originality was not a team pursuit…
Like one of my father’s more difficult roses, his ego would wither unless you fussed over it constantly. Writers, I knew, could be hard work, that way.
It had been years since I had walked a coastal path, and I’d forgotten how incredible it felt to be so high above everything, to look down and see gulls wheeling under me while on the blue sunlit water the tankers and small boats moved leisurely round one another, completely unaware of my existence.
“I suppose that there’s some planet, somewhere,” I told her, “where all of your theories make sense.”
“You should be sainted.”
“Most legends,” said Gareth, “are root
ed in myth. And legends live longer than truth.”
He was to Wales what William Wallace was to Scotland, only more than that.
Her neighbors, I thought, were probably still undergoing therapy.
She’s high maintenance, you know, like a racing car—always wanting a new set of tires, or an oil change.”
Smiling at the devil was the best way to defeat him, so my father’d always said.
“She’s just inherited her mother’s way of seeing things, the Celtic way, that sees the past and future worlds all blended in with ours. That isn’t mad, it’s Welsh.
“I’m a writer,” she said. “There’s a difference. Authors are rarefied creatures, you know, who write serious fiction.” “And writers…?” “Write books people buy,” she explained, with a twinkle of mischief.
Stripped to its bare outer walls, it was like a cathedral, a great hollow soaring cathedral of stone, with a perfect domed ceiling and small arching windows that slanted pale light through the reverent gloom. From every ledge and opening.

 

Short stories for summer!

Note: The British Library is republishing many of their Classic Crime and Spy novels, with the Poisoned Pen Press responsible for the U.S. editions. There were twelve published in 2015 and 12 more in 2016. They will be available in trade paperback and Ebook. Many of these books have been out of print or difficult to find. Some of these Golden Age Crime writers are perhaps unknown to the American audience. Each book features stunning cover art pertinent to the era (20/30s Britain). Of note, Martin Edwards provided guidance for this project as the archivist for CWA (and for Detection Club). Two books feature short fiction edited by Edwards. I have always valued the Poisoned Pen’s collection of mysteries for providing excellent reading experiences; there are over 700 titles. I am looking forward to the reissue of all the British Library Crime Classic novels. I read the following as ARCs from Netgalley, and wish to thank both publishers for bringing these works to light.

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Genre: English mystery, cozy, mystery, British Library crime classics,

Title: Resorting to Murder: Holiday Murders edited by Martin Edwards 286 pp. 4 stars***

This collection of 14 short stories is again presented in chronological published order (1910-1953). These are not action dramas but puzzles and will provide lovely armchair travel to Europe (UK, Switzerland, France). As a themed anthology it is more diverse than expected, given the authors and time period. Several feature well known detectives/sleuths: Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is present in The Adventure of Devil’s Foot, and his brother in law E.W. Hornung’s Dr John Dollar in A Schoolmaster Abroad, and H.C. Bailey’s The Hazel Ice has Mr Fortune, surely the precursor to Lord Peter Wimsey. I simply loved Helen Simpson’s humorous A Posteriori and Basil Thompson’s The Vanishing of Mrs Fraser. I wrote notes twelve of the stories!

I enjoyed this entertaining series far more than the previous short story anthology, although once again there are vastly different writing styles. Both may lead you to a new author, and both make wonderful summer reads. Short stories are perfect for the beach, the hammock, the commute to work, the plane trip, or by the pool. Don’t forget the Pimms to set the stage. It might just be your cup of tea. It is great to have a chance to read these stories. There is much to chose from and I think you will find many enjoyable reads.

Although sleuths go on vacation, murder never does.”

Title: Capitol Crimes edited by Martin Edwards 343 pp. 3 stars***

Martin Edwards has published 16 crime novels and 50 short stories. He is also the archivist for the Crime Writers’ Association as well as the Detection Club. He is a consultant to the British library in their reissuing of the crime writers of the golden era and as such, selected 17 short stories, set in London. They have been arranged in chronological order from 1893 Case of the Lady Sannox (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) to 1946 You Can’t Hang Twice (Anthony Gilbert).

This also illustrates the gradual transition from amateur detective to police procedural. You will find some interesting reads: Campion by Margery Allingham in the Unseen Door, Stealer of Marble by Edgar Wallace, or The Hands of Mr Ottermole by Thomas Burke. I found this edition to be more of a hodgepodge of less readable work, certainly not their best work. Some haven’t stood the hands of time, feeling very dated (manners, class), ‘vintage prose’ even! But as an introduction to their body of work, you might discover a new author.

The Rochester Public Library does not have the last books of short stories; it it does have several similar books that Edwards has edited for the CWA, including Deadly Pleasures 2013, Guilty Parties 2014, and Golden Age of Murder 2015.

Nudge

Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.  

Nudge define by Webster as to touch or push gently

Defined by Monty Python as to draw attention to a sexual innuendo in a previous statement 

I have to let Mercy go.

I have to get on with my other reading.

I have to get on with my life.

When I requested the latest book in the Mercy Thompson series, I was impatient for it to arrive. So I reread the Alpha and Omega series, which complements it but also provides valuable, in depth crossover characters. Then I found her Shifting Shadows, a book of short stories which are fantastic, in having stories which complete your knowledge of some of the main characters. As well as another chapter from Adam’s welcome viewpoint of the previous book Night Broken, (as well as a lovely story from just after Night Broken derived from a nightmare Briggs had! These stories contain ‘spoilers’ for the books, but could be read before Fire Touched). Then my Netgalley copy wouldn’t download properly and I decided enough was enough, I bought the hardback edition. I do not own a single copy of either series, although I would like them all. I was introduced to Briggs last summer with a local librarian telling me she loved it. I was a big fan of Charles, perhaps because the Mercy Thompson series was read out of order. Please note all these books stand alone but they are much more readable in order of publication and character development. The short stories are also essential reading to both series as they provide interesting background to each story line. Yes these are werewolves. And here be monsters. But I seldom read stories a second time, let alone a third time (finally all in order). Highly recommended.

Title: Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

5 Stars *****

Publisher: Penguin group (March 2016). 342 pp

Genre: fantasy, science fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, action/adventure

Author: Patricia Briggs is a NY Times best selling author of urban fantasy (since 1993 with the publication of Masques). She was a history and German major. Briggs obviously loves horses (Dead Heat), has a “small herd” and an interesting website/Facebook and blog http://www.patriciabriggs.com

This is the 9th book in the Mercy Thompson series, each installment is well written with developing characters, good action and an interesting mixture of mythology and world building. They take place in the Tri-Cities area along the Columba River, PNW.

Each book is a complete story but the characters develop with each episode. I love the diverse characters: from Coyote, the Gray Lords (fae), vampires, werewolves, Underhill, tibicena, and unknown monsters. I am invested in them and want to know so much more. I was lucky enough to have discovered these only last year, so have read all of them within the last few months, without waiting years for the story arc. It’s going to be a long wait for the next installment. Silence Fallen (2017) with Mercy going to Europe!? (I think that should be Charles and Anna!)

Story line:

Mercedes Thompson Hauptman is a coyote shapeshifter in a werewolf world. Her Native American heritage put her in the care of the Montana pack of Bran, The Marok (head of all werewolf clans in North America) until she struck out on her own. Her day job is Volkswagen mechanic extraordinaire. The rest of the time she is saving the world. Neither pays well. Mercy is a strong, independent, funny, smart heroine, always trying to save someone else. She stands up for what’s right. This makes her vulnerable, likable, lovable, dependable, unpredictable and great fun.

Mercy is also now the mate of alpha Adam, after much machination (see first six books). The depth of his feelings have never been in doubt. They have if anything intensified. Interesting that we continue to put human values/feelings in other creatures, very mistakenly in the case of The Fae here. Yet somehow there is so much reality that we are completely at home in Mercy’s world. Mercy always seems to win against impossible odds. I, personally, depend on that. These are adrenaline filled reads (this time there are trolls), while also emotionally satisfying (history, Justice, humor, family, pizza). There is still much looming ahead, war between the fae and humans, or werewolves and everyone. Each side should know that they need to be on Mercy’s side, if they expect to win (to paraphrase Lincoln).

Read on:

If you haven’t read Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, start with Moon Called

Read on to Alpha and Omega series with Charles and Anna

If you like series by Charlaine Harris, Karen Marie Moning, Kim Harrison

Quotes:

If something dire was going to happen, in my experience, it would happen whatever I was doing and waiting around was singularly useless. So I worked.

Holy Avon, Batman, I thought, as worry relaxed into annoyance tinged humor, I’ve been attacked by a multilevel marketer.

St. John’s wort, lavender, orange, she said briskly. This isn’t chemical castration….as if the phrase..was a common concept -and something one might consider doing to one’s husband.

Darryl kissed my hand formally, and said, you are endlessly entertaining.

My super power consisted of changing into a thirty five pound coyote.

….children help the power because they were in the process of becoming something. In that promise was magic – and it was like catnip to the fae.

Not as surprised and four times as please as my compatriots, I vow. You’ve been reading The Lord of the Rings again. 

Salt neutralizes the magic. What Uncle Mike did is the equivalent of using water to start a fire.

Nudge.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library (several as Ebooks).